Bruce was born in Leeds, Yorkshire and raised in Craghead, County Durham. She made her screen debut in the 1973 film Man at the Top and has played regular or recurring roles in a number of TV series - Angels (as Sandra Ling), Coronation Street (as Janice Stubbs) and Press Gang (as reporter Chrissie Stuart). She is also recognisable to sci-fi fans for her performance as Brigadier Winifred Bambera in the 1989 Doctor Who serial, Battlefield, as well as her portrayal of Dayna Mellanby in the Blake's 7 audio drama The Syndeton Experiment. On the London stage, she replaced Patricia Quinn making her the second actress to play Magenta in the original stage production of The Rocky Horror Show.
Other notable credits include: Red Dwarf (as "Debb Lister;" a female counterpart of Dave Lister's in a parallel universe), Prime Suspect and Only Fools and Horses where she played Councillor Murray. She also appeared as lesbian Prison Officer Mandy Goodhue in the popular ITV1 prison drama series, Bad Girls, the second time she appeared in a British women's prison drama series; having played tough inmate Bobbie in an episode of Within These Walls in an episode from series 2 called "The Good Life". Another notable role was (fictional) British Foreign Secretary Ruth Chambers in the BAFTA award-winning BBC One series, Spooks. In addition she had a part in one episode of "Waiting For God".